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ISLAMABAD: The European Union’s (EU) Generalized System of Preferences plus (GSP +) Monitoring Mission has landed in Islamabad for ten days (June 20-30, 2022), sources in Commerce Ministry told Business Recorder.

Last year, the EU on extending the GSP plus status for Pakistan, added six new Conventions along with expressing its concerns about situation of human rights, press freedom, death penalty and child labour related issues.

Pakistan will continue to enjoy GSP plus status till 2022, after which the EU will announce new criteria to qualify for the scheme.

Commerce Ministry, sources said, will also give a detailed briefing to the Federal Cabinet on Tuesday (today) on GSP+ related unresolved issues and prospects for a new GSP scheme starting from next year.

Minister for Commerce, Syed Naveed Qamar, who recently visited a few EU member countries’ capitals to muster support for a new scheme, will also brief the Cabinet on his efforts and observation made by the EU countries on incomplete Conventions.

GSP+ beyond 2023 possible for Pakistan: EU envoy

The EU Monitoring Mission will discuss the developments and progress made on implementation of 27 International Conventions concerning GSP+ since 2020 onwards in separate meetings with the relevant stakeholders reflecting the four charters, i.e., human rights, labour rights, environment and good governance.

In view of the immense significance of the Monitoring Mission’s visit for continuation of GSP+ unilateral concessions utilized by Pakistan, it was decided in the meeting of the Treaty Implementation Cell (TIC) on June 14, 2022 that the stakeholders concerned may firm up a solid narrative for presentation to the Monitoring Mission.

To move forward with the objective of seeking an extension to the GSP plus the Attorney General for Pakistan, the Convener of TIC, held a meeting on Monday which was attended by all concerned officials including a senior representative of National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

For new GSP Scheme (2024 -34), the European Commission published the legislation for GSP scheme (2024- 34) on September 22, 2021.

The new proposed scheme aims to improve key features of the scheme to better respond to the evolving needs and challenges of GSP countries, as well as, reinforce the scheme’s social, labour, environmental and climate dimension. It will be in place for ten years. There is an expansion in the list of International Conventions from 27 to 32 that beneficiary countries will have to ratify and implement.

The five new Conventions include the following: (i) two new instruments on human rights on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OP-CRC-AC) ;(ii) two new instruments on labour rights including ILO Convention No. 81 on Labour Inspection and ILO Convention No. 144 on Tripartite Consultation; (iii) One new instrument on governance on the UN Convention Against Trans-national Organized Crime; and (iv) one new instrument on climate change on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (2015), replacing the Kyoto Protocol (1997).

According to Commerce Ministry, with reference to (iii) strengthening and streamlining of the monitoring and compliance mechanism includes increased transparency and involvement of civil society, rapid response mechanism for urgent withdrawal of preferences procedure for systemic violations and expansion of the monitoring cycle from 2 to 3 years. The scheme also provides for transitional arrangements for current GSP Plus beneficiaries, who will have to fulfil the new requirements.

GSP + incentive provides many Pakistani export-oriented products including garments, bed linen, terry towels, hosiery, leather, sports & surgical goods, etc., duty free access in the EU market. As a result of this arrangement, Pakistan’s exports to EU increased from $ 6.094 billion in 2013-14 to $ 7.965 billion in 2018-19. However, due to Covid-19 crisis the bilateral trade register decline in the last two years. In financial year, 2020-21 bilateral trade stood at $ 10.883 billion with Pakistan’s exports to EU amounting to $ 6.9186 billion, with imports from EU estimated at $ 3.9644 billion and trade balance at $ 2.9542 billion in favour of Pakistan.

The EU and Pakistan have set up a Sub-Group on Trade to promote the development of two-way trade. The Sub-Group on Trade set up under the auspices of the EU-Pakistan Joint Commission is the forum for discussions on trade policy and developments more broadly and also aims to tackle individual market access issues which hamper trade between the two parties.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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